At the heart of any successful therapy lies the therapeutic alliance. The working relationship you have built with your psychologist will guide every session and interaction with them. Studies show that clients who perceived their psychologist as empathetic and truly invested in achieving positive outcomes for their wellbeing, made faster and better progress than those who did not. In fact, empathy and interpersonal connection seem to outrank both professional competence and therapeutic approach in terms of importance for therapy success.
Why is the therapeutic alliance so crucial in therapy? Being genuinely heard and understood can be very cathartic – especially for individuals who feel misunderstood or ignored, or even embarrassed to share their inner world with others. Often emotional healing requires gentle exploration of vulnerabilities and courage to face uncomfortable emotions. To do this in a therapeutic space requires trust in the psychologist guiding you. Trust that they have your best interest at heart. Trust that they believe you. Trust that they can tolerate your emotional distress. Trust that they can hold the space for you when you need them to simply be there. Trust that they will not push you against your will. Trust that they can support you fully.
The better the therapeutic alliance is, the more likely you will be able to open up, experience your emotions, share your needs, fears, and wants, and tackle your challenges. So when you meet your psychologist for the first time, see how you connect with their personality and therapy approach. This can help you to decide whether you a ready to start the therapeutic process with them.